LOS ANGELES -- Thomas Stripling and Matt Kemp came to the rescue for the Dodgers on Wednesday night, pretty much the way they have all year.After short Dodgers starts by Brock Stewart and Kenta Maeda to open the series, Stripling pitched seven bullpen-saving innings. With Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig
LOS ANGELES -- Thomas Stripling and Matt Kemp came to the rescue for the Dodgers on Wednesday night, pretty much the way they have all year.
After short Dodgers starts by Brock Stewart and Kenta Maeda to open the series, Stripling pitched seven bullpen-saving innings. With Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig resting, Kemp continued his All-Star-caliber play with a home run, double, sacrifice fly and four RBIs in an 8-2 win over the Phillies and Zach Eflin.
• Kemp leads NL batting race after 4-RBI night
With four Dodgers starting pitchers on the disabled list (at least until Clayton Kershaw is activated to start on Thursday), Stripling is seizing the opportunity he'd been waiting for. He's spent most of his MLB career in the bullpen following 2014 Tommy John surgery, but manager Dave Roberts said the club wants to see just how good Stripling can be.
"We're going to find out," said Roberts. "We're going to keep running him out there."
Stripling has been typecast as not quite a starter ever since the elbow surgery. He said he was sure he'd be ready if he'd ever get the chance to start, but wasn't sure he ever would.
"With the Dodgers, I'd probably say no," he said. "The guys we have in the room that were healthy, then [Walker] Buehler, [Dennis] Santana, [Julio] Urias coming back, making moves at the [Trade] Deadline. I probably thought I made a nice little role for myself in the bullpen as long/swing man. But you'd talk to Andrew [Friedman, president of baseball operations], and he'd say, 'We see you as a starter in the future.' When I got the opportunity, I wanted to take full advantage of it. It's what I'm most comfortable doing."
Being told you're seen as a starter isn't quite the same as being a starter.
"Buddies or family members would ask, 'Are you ever going to start again?' I don't know," Stripling said. "I just sat back and enjoyed being in the big leagues."
In his sixth start this season, Stripling struck out nine Phillies and allowed four hits, raising his record to 3-1 and lowering his ERA to 1.68 with a team-high 59 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings, 6 2/3 short of qualifying for the ERA leaders (he'd be second).
Over his last five starts, Stripling is 3-0 with a 1.24 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 29 innings. He made 92 pitches and even drove in a run with a two-out single in the fifth, after setting up a run with a sacrifice bunt in the fourth.
Stripling began the season in the bullpen, allowing just one run in 15 1/3 innings, while striking out 17 and limiting the opposition to a .211 average. He inherited his first start when Rich Hill landed on the DL and returned to the rotation when Kershaw went down.
"I don't think, even in college, I struck out more than one an inning," said Stripling. "That's fairly new. Couple of weeks ago I was throwing a bullpen and [Rick] Honeycutt asked what I was thinking when I throw the curve and I told him I just kind of aim it and he said, 'Why don't you just throw it as hard as you can?' Since then, it's been a lot better in the zone. I feel like my arm action is better and there's probably a direct relationship to more strikeouts."
Stripling had plenty of support against the Phillies. Everybody in the starting lineup had at least one hit, and five had RBIs. Player Page for Max Muncy slugged his seventh home run off Eflin, who allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings.
The Phillies' only run off Stripling came on Nick Williams' second home run in as many nights, leading off the seventh inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cody Bellinger had two hits and a walk, after coming into the game in a 3-for-41 slump. Roberts said the key to Bellinger's game came before the game.
"It was a really good night for Cody," said Roberts. "In batting practice there's some things I saw that were good. He made adjustments to shorten up a bit, and it was good to see it taken into the game."
The Dodgers won nine consecutive series at one point last year. A win on Thursday and they will have won a season-high four straight series.
HE SAID IT
"We'd have went to Vegas." -- Roberts, on if he'd known at the start of the season that Kemp would be leading the NL in hitting at this point
It's an unusual 4:35 p.m. PT start time Thursday for Clayton Kershaw's return from the disabled list against the Phillies and Aaron Nola. It will be Kershaw's first start in a month after battling biceps tendinitis that may or may not have been the cause of decreased velocity. He's said he's made mechanical adjustments during the rehab. Fans can watch the series finale free on MLB.TV.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.